New Touchscreen Technology - Chip Design – Electronic design services with Argon Design Ltd.

New Touchscreen Technology - Chip Design

Skill sets used

Electronic engineering, Processor architectures, RTL and semiconductor IP, Software engineering, Product definition

The Challenge

Dialog Semiconductor identified a new business opportunity using a breakthrough technology for touch screen devices. The global markets for such interactive devices are enormous in areas such as All-in-One PCs, Tablets, monitors, TVs etc.

Dialog were working in partnership with the technology company FlatFrog Laboratories AB who had developed the underlying optical touch technology and required the design of a new ASIC in order to fully commercialise the technology for mass product roll out.

Dialog asked Argon Design to co-manage development of the ASIC as well as providing the bulk effort for the technical and development work. The ASIC had to be designed from scratch to engineering samples in 6 months!

Our Approach

In partnership with Dialog's engineering team, the pertinent steps in achieving the challenge were as follows:-

  • Transfer the challenge, technology and initial ASIC scoping work from Dialog to our team utilising Dialog’s detailed objective specification
  • Review and refine the system design to minimise development time and risk
  • Select the process technology. We considered 0.13um and 65nm. The best fit from an area/cost and IP availability perspective was 65nm
  • Identify existing mass-production proven third party IP blocks to minimise timescale and risk, adapting the overall system design to match available IP
  • Floor plan the chip, allowing for expansion room of custom blocks where size may increase
  • Design the top level, individual digital blocks and bring together the outsourced analogue blocks in parallel with a large concurrent engineering team to minimise timescale
  • Develop a "Verification Framework" in Verilog, designed in such a way that it comprehensively tested in simulation both the digital and mixed signal parts of the design. It was also used to develop the end application software in advance of silicon availability.
  • The back-end chip layout was outsourced using an Agile methodology in order to support possible late design modifications
  • Design a "Bring Up" hardware platform (in parallel to the ASIC chip design activities) in order to test and qualify the initial batch of chips

Despite minor issues and delays, the chip taped out 5 ½ months after project start!

Following fabrication, an initial batch of 2500 samples was received from the Foundry for validation and qualification (see diagram below).

The "Bring Up" platform was designed to re-use much of the simulation "Verification Framework". This approach meant a proven set of tests and familiar environment was being used and allowed rapid bring-up of the first devices.

The "Bring Up" platform was used for design verification, validation, qualification and was used to test in total more than 3000 devices for prototype production - see one of our engineers in action in the diagram below.

The Outcome

The first version of the chip was fully functional.

(Dialog DA8901 Multi-Touch IC developed in partnership with Argon Design Ltd)

The customer was able to integrate the new ASIC into their technology and showed a working touch screen 8 days after receiving tested samples.

Development Kits (see diagram below) were created and packaged professionally for the Dialog and FlatFrog's engineering teams to perform further product testing and qualification.

View the Dialog press release

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